Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a phenomenon where a seemingly healthy child unexpectedly passes away in their sleep, usually in their crib. Researchers are at a loss as to why this happens and many studies have been performed over the decades to try and find the root causes. There are many theories, but one of the most likely assumptions is that the part of the infant’s brain which controls breathing and waking up from sleep is defective--in other words, their brain doesn’t tell them to breathe and they pass away from suffocation.
Another probable cause is that a child’s airways become blocked and they cannot receive enough oxygen to survive.
About 2,300 babies die from SIDS in the United States each year. While we still don’t have a cure or even a concrete cause for SIDS, researchers have found many ways which seem to lower the chances of it happening! If you practice safe sleep habits every time you put your baby down for bedtime or a nap, you can save them from passing in their sleep.
Most cases of SIDS happen between ages 1-4 months old, but a child is at risk for SIDS until 12 months old. However, if your baby suffered from:
low birth rate
respiratory infection (like a cold)
these are physical factors that can contribute to SIDS. Paying attention and taking extra care until they have recovered is important for these at-risk babies.
The top recommendations to prevent SIDS are:
Always Put The Baby On Their Back To Sleep
A baby needs access to clean, open air. Re-breathing in their own oxygen or having their airway blocked by a blanket or pillow is a risk for SIDS. A baby who can't turn its head, won't be able to breathe in fresh air if placed on its tummy.
Empty The Crib
Always empty the crib of stuffed toys, blankets, soft bedding, bumpers, etc… Cover their infant mattress with a tightly fitted sheet, and wrap your baby in a sleep-sack to keep them warm, but safe. A sleep-sack is a device like a sleeping bag that won’t allow the fabric to cover the baby’s head as they toss and turn at night.
Avoid Soft Surfaces For Sleeping
A waterbed, fluffy comforter, baby pillows are all things that can trap a baby’s airway, particularly if he/she is not old enough to turn their head or roll over on their own. Always use an infant-approved crib mattress for your baby to sleep on.
Babies like to sleep with their mothers. After all, infants are conceived attached to their mothers and don’t know that they are a separate person yet. However, co-sleeping is very dangerous because adult bedding can easily fall over the baby’s face and adult mattresses are not breathable. Many mothers also have unknowingly rolled over onto their babies in their sleep. This is why experts recommend sleeping separately from your child. Always put the baby in their own infant crib to sleep.
Have The Baby Sleep in Your Room
While co-sleeping is dangerous, having the baby’s bed in your room is proven to lower the risk of SIDS. If you can, use a bassinet that can sit next to your bed. This also makes it easier for women to reach their babies to reinsert a pacifier and breastfeed, which is also a proven way to reduce SIDS.
Being too warm during sleep is also a risk factor for SIDS. Make sure the baby’s room is at room temperature (or a little lower) and use a sleep sack or light swaddle to keep them warm.
Offer A Pacifier
The reason is unclear why, but babies who use pacifiers to sleep have a lower chance of developing SIDS.
Breastfeed babies showed a lower rate of SIDS than formula-fed babies. If you can, try to breastfeed. Even if you can only do it for the first four months of life when babies are the most susceptible to SIDS.
Babies exposed to second-hand smoke also had a higher death rate than children who live in smoke-free homes.
SIDS can affect any infant, however, there are several factors that put certain babies at a higher risk:
Gender-- Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
Age-- Infants are most vulnerable between 1-4 months of life.
Race-- For reasons that aren't well-understood, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
Family history-- Babies who've had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
The health of the pregnant mother can also play a role in the percentage of a child developing SIDS. Remember the following can play a role in SIDS and a woman would always ask her doctor if she falls into any of the following categories:
Is Younger than 20
Smokes during and after pregnancy
Uses drugs/alcohol during pregnancy
Has inadequate prenatal care
While SIDS is not as common as it once was because of modern research, it’s important to pay attention to your baby and be consistent with their sleep routine. Take time to remind family members and caregivers of the rules and always ask your pediatrician when you have concerns.